Not only did I receive my update from the agent, but I got the rare personalized rejection writers crave (I still really, really dislike the word rejection; isn’t there a better one somewhere?).
I’ve received my share of standard form rejections. I’ve even received a bad photocopy of a rejection letter once. But this was my first personalized reply. I immediately wrote a short, polite Thank You.
Now I am left with a gentle critique pointing out two weak spots, and several options:
- I could ignore the agent’s opinion and soldier on, querying and working on the second book in the series. After all this is a subjective business and who is she to point out flaws in my writing?
- Armed with her critique, I could take a good hard look at my writing, tear it apart and reassemble it in new and, hopefully, improved form.
- I could hire a professional editor to work with me on THE PROTECTOR.
- I could wait to see if I receive other personalized replies pointing out similar flaws and then work on those problem areas.
- I could throw in the towel and take up woodworking (which incidentally I enjoy a lot).
5. is obviously out of the question. I haven’t come this far, written this much, just to give up now. No, no. But I do enjoy woodworking.
1. never even entered my mind until I sat down to write this blog entry.
Since patience is no virtue of mine, sitting around and waiting for another reply (4.) isn’t what I want to do either. Who knows how long it will be until I receive another personalized reply?
I would love to be able to afford 3.
2. was clearly a gut reaction.
This might have been the opinion of one single, solitary agent, but it has credence. So I’m going to take a good look at my writing, paying careful attention to the weaknesses and strengths she pointed out. I am not, however, going to tear apart what I’ve written. Instead, I sent away for a book critique with a professional editor. This isn’t an edit – which I can’t afford – but rather something I’d call a pre-edit. The editor is going to take a look at the entire manuscript to determine exactly what kind of edit I need. In the end, I should receive a master list of strengths and weaknesses.
Armed with the agent’s comments and that editorial master list, I can then work on THE PROTECTOR and address specific issues.
I have had the first chapter edited twice before (took advantage of a free edit offer to see exactly where my writing stands). I was pleasantly surprised.
The first editor had this to say:
“You write well, to the point right from the start and with good feel for flow and texture. You introduce each character well, and employ a nicely spare style that is instantly readable. You may want to consider merely a proofread.” [scribendi.com]
The second editor had a similar opinion:
“This is quite an interesting set up. I can already imagine what is to come. Clever dialog and it flows naturally. The setting is interesting too, as is the potential list of characters. Good start. You appear to have a good command of grammar and punctuation. In my estimation you just need a good proofreader.” [twobrotherspress.net]
What a nice boost to my writing confidence. Since English isn’t my native language, I am very proud of the fact that punctuation and grammar pass muster. I can’t wait to receive that editorial master list; not because I think it will heap more praise on me – wouldn’t that be awesome – but because it will be a great tool to work with. It will highlight flaws I might suspect already and point out other weaknesses that completely escape my attention.
The reply I received from my choice agent might have been a rejection, but in the end she did me a great favor and my writing will be better for it.
All this means, though, that my focus will be on THE PROTECTOR again. Instead of moving on and possibly committing the same sins again, I will take a step back and work on the first book in the series again. In all honesty, I don’t expect the revision to take very long. It took me six weeks to do a line-by-line edit, often floundering a bit, because I was unsure of what to look for exactly. With the book critique as road map, I should be able to focus my attention and effort exactly where it’s needed.
Thank you, Ella, for thinking I am brave to take feedback this well. I don’t think it’s bravery as much as ambition and a very healthy hunger to learn more, to improve and to better my skills.